by Peter Boon, firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted on May 5, 2015, Tuesday
Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar
SIBU: Police are going to deploy General Operations Force (GOF) personnel to guard the borders, including at Ba Kelalan.
In disclosing this yesterday, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this followed his discussion with the Commissioner of Police Dato Sri Muhammad Sabtu Osman on border security.
“I am studying and planning for the overall security of the border area, and this includes having additional CIQs (Custom, Immigration and Quarantine) along the 2,700km of Sarawak (1,950km) and Sabah (700km) border.
“This planning is made after getting inputs from the police and Immigration Department of both states,” Wan Junaidi told The Borneo Post.
The Santubong MP added: “I have discussed that with (Minister in Prime Minister’s Department) Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, under whose purview border security falls.
“I am also pushing for additional battalions of GOF in Sarawak to man strategic areas and border areas. I have briefed the chief minister on this planning. He is supportive and assured of the state’s support.”
Wan Junaidi was asked if the Home Affairs Ministry had any plans to mobilise Rela personnel to monitor illegal routes or ‘jalan tikus’ along porous borders in the country, such as Sarawak-Kalimantan border, to curb smuggling of subsidised goods and to prevent stolen vehicles making their way across the border.
He explained that Rela is a voluntary organisation, and it is not meant to be deployed in areas like border and security control. He pointed out that its members were not trained, equipped or legally backed up to perform such functions.
“Its functions are voluntary and generally doing support services in the community, where the unit is based.”
Recently, Ba Kelalan resident Tadam Arun claimed that a tar-sealed road built two years ago to Long Bawan had opened the floodgate for smuggled goods to flow across the border.
He further claimed the new road was also a boon for car thieves as they could now drive the stolen vehicles across the border.
According to Tadam, smuggling activities in the past were rampant but in small quantities, but with the good road, stolen vehicles of all makes, subsidised Malaysian goods like petrol, sugar, cooking oil, and even drugs had crossed the border freely.
Tadam also claimed lax control at the checkpoint being the reason smuggled goods and stolen vehicles could cross the border so easily.
KUCHING: A state lawmaker has deemed it highly unnecessary to make it a requirement for an election candidate to have a credit for Bahasa Malaysia in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination in order to be qualified to contest in elections in the country.
Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How said in fact, no country practising parliamentary democracy has made high academic proficiency in a language a pre-condition or qualification for members of legislative assemblies.
On the contrary, he said, particularly for democracies with multi-racial settings, he said provisions were made for the use of native and multiple languages to reflect their democracies.
He believes an elected representative’s performance is not judged by his or her academic qualifications in a particular language, but on how they carry out their duties and responsibilities under the Oath of Office they have taken in the Parliament and State Assembly.
“So, to require an academic qualification on their language proficiency is unnecessary. If we do that, probably members of the whole of the state cabinet we have now have to be disqualified,” he said during a press conference, here, yesterday.
See, who is state PKR vice chairman, was responding to Election Commission (EC) chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof’s statement that the commission was studying a proposal that individuals wanting to become elected representatives be required to have at least a credit in Bahasa Malaysia in SPM examination.
The suggestion to make it a requirement was initially made by controversial preacher Prof Dr Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, who proposed that elected representatives be interviewed for their Bahasa Malaysia proficiency as well as knowledge of the nation’s history.
See said the party was not disputing Bahasa Malaysia as the national language of the country and pointed out members of parliament should possess a certain degree of proficiency in the national language in order for them to take part actively in parliamentary proceedings.
“However, when you talk about the qualifications of membership of an MP or state assemblyman, that is another matter and that is provided under Article 47 and 48 of the Federal Constitution and Article 16, 16a and 17 of the Sarawak State Constitution.”
He said under the Standing Order in the Parliament, the proceedings are in the national language while in Sarawak, Article 24 Clause 8 of the Sarawak State Constitution provides that the proceedings in the State Assembly may be in English and that members may use any native language when addressing the Dewan, subject to the Standing Order.
See opined that instead of paying attention to the “outrageous suggestion” by Ridhuan, the EC should concentrate on their constitutional duties and responsibility under Article 113 to 119 of the Federal Constitution for the conduct of free and fair election in Malaysia.
“It is sad that 52 years after formation of Malaysia, they (EC) are still unable to conduct free and fair election in Malaysia. That should be their priority rather than entertaining such suggestion by Ridhuan.”
In what he believed as a big mistake committed by Abdul Aziz, See said the EC chairman should look at Ridhuan’s statement in the whole context, which was very critical of the Chinese community.
“He (Ridhuan) was questioning not only their proficiency in BM but he was also questioning their knowledge on the national history and that they have been putting all this while their mother tongue language above Bahasa Malaysia and that’s why he made that kind of comment which is unnecessary.”
Besides that, See said Ridhuan’s outrageous statement had in fact revealed his ignorance of the provisions in the Federal Constitution and his lack of knowledge and appreciation of the multi-racial plural society which is the pride of the country.
He said it was offensive and downright derogatory for Ridhuan, in his remarks on members’ lack of proficiency in the use of the national language, when he described the Parliament and state assembly proceedings as ‘night market’ and ‘childish’.
“Ridhuan may be very good in Bahasa Malaysia, but actually, how many people believe that he can be a good elected representative knowing his personality? It is questionable that he can uphold whatever an elected representative should do for the interest of the country and state.”
KUCHING: State PKR vice chairman See Chee How regards the seizure of ‘Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia’ book by the Home Ministry last week as “bad timing and wrongful”.
See, who is Batu Lintang assemblyman, said the Home Ministry officers appeared to have made a mistake in seizing the book, as nobody knew that it had been banned.
“There was no announcement by the Home Ministry,” he said in a press conference here yesterday when asked to comment on news report that copies of the book, together with six other titles, were seized by officers of the Home Ministry at the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair.
Coordinator for publisher GerakBudaya, Ng Yap Hwa, said a total of 30 copies were taken away by the officers to see if they violated the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
“To do that (seizure of the book ‘Money Logging’), we are actually telling the international forum that we have something to hide with regard to the logging practices and allegations that were made in the book, which I think is bad.”
Thus, See hoped that the Home Ministry would immediately return the books and apologise to GerakBudaya.
“It is quite an embarrassment, especially at this time when our Chief Minister (Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem) is in Europe to talk about logging and preservation of our forest resources.
“He is scheduled to have an open dialogue tomorrow (today) with all the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in London.
“So I think the seizure of the book will be quite an embarrassment for him when they question him over that matter.”
Deputy Home Minister Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was not available for explanation at press time.
Two sets of brothers made headlines recently, for completely different reasons, but both exhibited the art of saving face. One unashamedly defended his brother’s actions in a potentially violent public demonstration. The other was more circumspect in criticising the role played by his brother in an important public issue.
First. We will never find out if inspector-general of police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar was aware of the role played by his brother, Abdullah, during the church cross demonstration in Taman Medan. Was Abdullah the leader of the protesters, or was he the mediatorbetween the Malay demonstrators and the church representatives?
Abdullah, whose business is the supply of firearms and security services, was said to have known about the Malay protest and claimed that as a responsible leader of the Taman Lindungan Jaya Umno Baru branch, he soothed tensions, as he feared the protest would spiral out of control.
The IGP has claimed that, as a “professional”, he would not allow brotherly sentiments to influence him and vowed not to interfere in the investigation.
To show his ‘professionalism’, Khalid started-off by claiming that the removal of the cross from the church in Taman Medan, did not breach the Sedition Act because the protest did not touch on religion or the Christian faith.
This is not the first time that the IGP has “misinterpreted” the law. In child conversion cases, he refuses to do his job as a policeman, and will not arrest fathers who kidnap their children, claiming that he is caught in the cross-fire between syariah and civil laws.
If the IGP wants proof of double standards, he could investigate the manner in which human rights lawyers, social activists and opposition politicians have been arrested, by gangs of balaclava-clad policemen, armed with assault rifles, in the dead of night. The people who are arrested are handcuffed, dressed in purple uniforms, detained for several days, and some of them are allegedly assaulted.
One wonders if Khalid’s brother, who was called in for a police interview, was invited for a quick chat over a cup of tea, then chauffeured home, in an unmarked police car.
The IGP’s open admission about his brother, contrasts with that of Nazir Abdul Razak, the brother of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the controversial development company, which has accrued a debt of RM42 billion ringgits, is under the purview of the Finance Ministry, of which Najib is the minister.
‘Suspecting the worst’
Nazir had expressed disappointment that no representative of 1MDB had attended a major investment forum, despite being invited. He said that if the truth was kept from the rakyat, they would suspect the worst. He also agreed with the Bank Negara governor, Zeti Akhtar Aziz, that 1MDB did not pose a “systemic risk”.
Nazir (right) allegedly denied that he was in disagreement with his brother, and said that despite making various comments on 1MDB, none of his remarks could be seen as controversial or have caused negative investor sentiment. He said, “I think my 15-year-old son can make that observation (on 1MDB) as well.” (sic)
Nazir, the chairperson of CIMB, is right to say that we should not dismiss his criticism of the failure of representatives from 1MDB to explain the position, as sibling rivalry. It is far more serious. The financial health of 1MDB affects the economy of Malaysia and all Malaysians.
The rakyat is worried, and for Nazir to claim that this is not a systemic risk is irresponsible. Malaysians are concerned because the taxpayers’ money is involved, and they want to know the truth about 1MBD.
Nazir may not have made any controversial statements about 1MBD, but other people who have reported on 1MDB, like the editors ofThe Malaysian Insider, have been arrested, simply for doing their jobs.
Put another way; if we were to default on a bank loan of a few thousand ringgits, the bank would not hesitate to send the bailiffs to recover the loan. Najib’s 1MDB is risking RM42 billion ringgits of taxpayers’ money, and no action has been taken. He has put the country’s finances in peril.
Nazir should have explained to Najib the seriousness of the 1MDB scandal and forced representatives of the company to attend the forum, instead of merely questioning 1MDB’s absence.
When Nazir uploaded the photo of Michael Jackson with the caption, “You are not alone”, onto his Instagram account, most people thought it was directed at Mahathir Mohamad, who had earlier said he was alone, in his mission to seek answers about 1MBD, from Najib.
Despite the minor tensions in a normal, brotherly relationship, the axiom, “blood is thicker than water” holds true, and Nazir may have been telling his brother, “Yo, bro, I will always be there for you, despite your faults”.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).
COMMENT The sight of the youngsters in handcuffs and chains had a profound effect on many of us who saw them. I remember trying to make them feel better by saying that I too had been arrested. But it sounded hollow.
I had a battery of lawyers and friends by my side. I was not handcuffed and chained. They were alone, and I will never forget the fear in their eyes. The lawyers there then jumped in to help them. But what if we had not been there?
And what was their offence? Maybe some of them took part in the same rally - but so had 10,000 others. Some of them said they were sitting and having a drink at a time after the rally had ended when they were set upon by the police.
The rally was peaceful. No one was hurt. People had fun. The police facilitated it well. Yes, there were firecrackers and one or two smoke bombs, which could have been dealt with by the police on the spot. Not much more.
These youngsters had not forced a religious house to take down a cross. They had not asked for holy books to be burned. They had not made racist and extremist comments. Yet here they were, being treated like criminals.
They were bewildered, and alone
I chanced upon some of them the next day when I was sent to be photographed and fingerprinted. They were there to be photographed and fingerprinted too,I believe. Was this necessary? They still looked bewildered and alone. Some of them had not even contacted their families.
That morning the magistrate had issued a three-day remand order against them. Three days? For what? To frighten them? To punish them?
These children (and I call them children because I have children that age) will never be the same again after this traumatic experience. They will grow up having experienced the ugliness in the system that we have allowed to fester and grow. We have failed them.
We have allowed some of our institutions to become monsters with power. They push us around like we are criminals just because they can, not because they have a basis to.
They flout all best practices because they believe they are not answerable to anyone. They practise selective prosecution blatantly because they know they will get away with it.
We owe it to our children to fight this abuse of power and to restore our institutions to the highest standards of professionalism. Neither they, nor any of us who were arrested, deserved to be treated like common criminals.
My fear is that it is happening so often that we are getting used to it. For the sake of the next generation, we must never get used to it.
On reflection, I am thankful for the experience that I had. I am thankful that we could help the youngsters in some small way and that we were there to witness the horrors that they faced.
Most of all, I am thankful that so many of us witnessed an entrenched system of dehumanisation, first hand. But all this will be meaningless if we stay quiet.
Silence is not an option. Not if we want Malaysia to be a place where our young can grow up in peace and security and feel safe, knowing that the institutions will be fair and will not behave as if they are above the law.
AMBIGA SREENEVASAN is a former chairperson of the Bar Council. She, too, was detained overnight in connection with the anti-GST rally.
COMMENT The dominant theme of Permatang Pauh and Rompin has been one of negativity. On one level this is not a surprise, given that the circumstances surrounding both by-elections are grim.
In one, a man in his prime lost his life in a helicopter crash, and in another a man was put behind bars in an attempt to crush the opposition. Rather than act as a catalyst to bring positive change, the campaigns have been mired in the muck.
We have witnessed base gutter politics in Umno’s vulgar sexual innuendo campaigning. We have seen persistent attacks on politicians (including their wives) across the political divide in Malaysia's 'destruction' mode of politics.
The prominence of sabotage and division has overshadowed sensibility and dignity. Despite all of this, there are important markers at stake in these contests and in Malaysia's electoral landscape.
Najib needs strong victory
The outcome of these by-elections will affect the country's national leadership. In Permatang Pauh, a victory for PKR's Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will likely move her into the opposition leadership position, at least in the short-term. This is despite the obstacles she faces from those within the ranks of Pakatan Rakyat, and even within her own party.
The weak machinery, the open defiance tinged with sexism and limited momentum in the campaign itself are all products of problems within the opposition coalition as a whole.
While attention has centered on the differences over hudud, older issues are at play, including continued resentment over the Kajang Move of last year, the resurgence of the push toward an all-Malay unity government and the real ambitions of alternative leaders to take over leadership within the opposition.
The results of Permatang Pauh will shape what form the opposition will take nationally, whether it will be a multi-ethnic national opposition with the potential to reconfigure itself as an alternative for national governance, with Wan Azizah and other moderate national-minded leaders at the helm, or other alternatives.
With Permatang Pauh's ethnic composition mirroring Peninsular Malaysian demographic trends, it will be telling to see what type of representation voters will choose.
Rompin has not received the same level of attention as Permatang Pauh, at least in the English language media, but it is equally important. At issue is Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's political future.
This contest emerged after his friend and ally died, and the slated candidate and campaign is closely connected to Najib. His cousin Hishammuddin Hussein is leading Umno's campaign in the party's political base.
Najib needs a strong victory to assure that he has the support of his party and its core. This will be similarly challenging as the machinery is not as revved up as in the past, when an incumbent leader was running and a Pahang premier was seeking a national mandate.
Today's reality is that there is open opposition to Najib's leadership within Umno led by former leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad and nationally, as the premier has the lowest public support in his tenure. It is thus not surprising that the stakes are high in Rompin, for a reduction in support in Rompin will signal trouble to Najib's political future.
Unlike Permatang Pauh, where a reduction in the majority is expected, given Najib's position and resources, even a small decline in support will be perceived negatively.
From goodies to grumbles
By-elections have traditionally been 'buy-elections', with goodies galore. The BN, with its hand on the national till and control over the mainstream media, has always had the advantage, especially in the more semi-rural and rural areas.
Given the stakes in these contests, there are many items on offer, with even the Penang government making promises of new projects. It remains to be seen how impactful the use of financial incentives will be this time round.
One item that is marginally different than GE 2013, and reminiscent of conditions surrounding GE 2008, is a perceived decline in the economy. Ordinary Malaysians are feeling the economic pain, compared with the past, with a depreciated ringgit, the goods and services tax (GST), inflation and lower purchasing power.
Even in the Felda areas of Rompin, where the drop in the prices of rubber and palm oil has hit hard, there is a sense of relative economic deprivation. More than any issue - rights, religion or race - the main driver in voting in Malaysia is the economy, as surveys consistently show that the main issues that concern voters are the bread-and-butter realities.
As finance minister in charge of the economy and as a premier who has prided himself on the country's economic performance, negative views of the economy increase BN's and Najib's vulnerability.
As the campaigns come to a close, the promises of allocations have risen, with less open defence of the GST and more attention to where GST funds will go - be it towards civil servants, higher pensions and more.
Najib is trying to hold onto his political base and strengthen his position in his ongoing fight with Mahathir to stay in office. The question at play will be whether the electorate will buy into the promises in these campaigns. Will Najib maintain his credibility? Will the entrenched pattern of patronage hold out? Or has greater realism and cynicism taken root?
While the economy tests Najib, it offers a solution for the opposition. Economic realities arguably now serve as the bedrock for any base for opposition unity.
Even as the president of PAS, Abdul Hadi Awang (right), talks about the need for a unity government with Umno in his speech this week in Singapore, implicitly acknowledging how close he and his conservative ulama faction are to Umno, he cannot take away the fact that most Malaysians, and members of his own party PAS, are unhappy with Umno's current economic performance.
The PAS delegates at the coming June muktamar cannot ignore the common bonds the new economic realities foster. On some levels, the by-elections will be a marker of how the economy and governance drives politics as opposed to religion.
On others, it will test how much the opposition leaders are concerned with the welfare of citizens, rather than imposing their ideological agenda that is not in keeping with the priorities of most ordinary Malaysians.
The results - along with the decisions of PAS voters in both elections - will spill over into the PAS party elections in June and shape the opposition as a whole.
Hollow victories or hallowed outcomes?
The expectation for both contests is reduced majorities. The main reasons for this is the expected lower turnout, with voting coming after a long holiday weekend, the negative mode of the campaigns, active sabotage and weakened support for both sides.
The last few days of the electoral campaign will include efforts to ratchet up support, to oil the squeaky electoral machinery. Surprises cannot be ruled out. Whatever happens, however, these by-elections will matter and reverberate politically after the votes have been counted.
For Malaysians looking at these contests, Permatang Pauh and Rompin may appear hollow victories, killing hope for many amidst the negative sentiment. Yet, within these contests, there may be unforeseen dynamics in the electoral landscape that reveal ongoing changes taking place.
It is indeed hard to see these changes with the muck around these campaigns, but the shifts in coalitions and conditions have created new dynamics that will likely move Malaysia towards a different political future.
BRIDGET WELSH is a senior research associate of the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of the National Taiwan University, where she conducts research on democracy and politics in South-East Asia.